Public asked to become volunteer librarians

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JUST FOUR libraries will be run by council staff in a South Yorkshire town as the authority asks the public to take over the running of the the bulk of the network.

The plan to move eight libraries into “community management” is part of Doncaster Council’s efforts to find budget savings of more than £100 million over the next three years.

Libraries at Askern, Armthorpe, Bentley, Cantley, Conisbrough, Hatfield, Tickhill and Woodlands have been earmarked to be transferred following a public consultation.

If senior councillors approve the idea next week it will leave just four libraries in the district - Central, Mexborough, Edlington and Thorne - run by paid staff although the council will look for help from volunteers.

A team of four council officers will be available to support volunteer-run libraries although this may involve reducing the opening hours of council-run facilities.

Councillors will also consider closing its mobile and travelling library services at a meeting on Friday.

Coun Joe Blackham, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Doncaster Council, said: “As a result of the disproportionate budget cuts of £109 million forced on us by central Government, we have had to look very carefully at how our services are run – including our libraries.

“We are determined to minimise the impact of the cuts on local residents where possible and I have always said that our libraries will not close if suitable alternative arrangements can be found.

“The extensive consultation included replies from more than 1,300 people and more than 130 residents have already come forward to express an interest in volunteering.”

Two years ago, the council transferred 12 libraries to community groups as part of a reorganisation which also saw the libraries at Carcoft and Denaby close.

George Spencer, chair of the board of Bawtry Library which was one of those transferred, said: “When we heard that the council was looking for volunteers to run the library, we were determined to do something about it.

“I knew, from my work on the town council, that there were many people who would like to get involved.

“It took some time to learn the ropes for us all but it is extremely rewarding for me and many of our volunteers to run the library. It is a community facility which we feel is needed in Bawtry.”

Councils across the region have been asking the public to take a bigger role in delivering the services they have previously provided directly as they cope with significant cuts in the money they receive from the Government.

Sheffield City Council is in the process of negotiating the transfer of up to 10 libraries to community groups and co-managing five more.

Last year a community group took on the running of Bramley Baths after it was transferred on a 25 year lease by Leeds City Council.